Operations Bulletin | Escalation of our COVID settings

March 29, 2023

Western Health has been closely monitoring the status of COVID in the community with detailed information from WPHU on the incidence of cases in our catchment areas, as well as reviewing the data around Melbourne, across Victoria and interstate. There has been a significant increase, with the 7-day rolling average of hospitalisations due to COVID in Victoria increased by 57%, and the number of active COVID cases in ICU admissions doubled. Key internal groups within Western Health use this data to determine whether we need to scale up or scale down our COVID risk mitigation strategies.

The data is also signalling the increase in newer variants circulating in different states including those in Victoria. The Victorian Chief Health Officer announced recently that a new wave is starting.

Today Western Health currently has 20 positive cases with one patient in ICU and 9 COVID recovered in our care. Western Health has also seen small cluster outbreaks in two high-risk settings with both patient and staff cases in the last week.

Positive staff cases

Staff positive cases have increased, which is reflective of the broader increase in our communities. The last two weeks have seen the biggest increase in staff case numbers.

We strongly encourage staff to continue to report their positive status and for managers to remind their staff as there may be a degree of under reporting via the RedCap link to the Contact Tracing team on the main page of the Coronavirus microsite.

PPE changes to protect staff and patients

Due to the data showing the start of a new wave of COVID within the community, we are escalating our PPE settings again to ensure that we protect our staff, patients and visitors:

  • Effective from today, staff in all inpatient, ambulatory and procedural clinical areas (including offices and staff stations in inpatient clinical areas), the Emergency Department, Dialysis, Day Oncology, Respiratory/Sleep Laboratory and Imaging, are now required to wear N95 masks, ensuring a fit check seal is performed each time applied.
  • Other clinical areas, including outpatient departments are strongly encouraged to wear N95 however may wear a surgical mask.
  • Staff in non-clinical areas are encouraged to wear a mask (surgical or N95).
  • Masks continue to not be required in public areas, corridors and cafeterias – however, staff are strongly encouraged to wear a mask to enhance protection.

We know that for many of our staff this tightening of our PPE settings will be disappointing; however, we are committed to maintaining a safe environment and believe that this change is necessary. We will continue to monitor the data, and will continue to adjust our settings based on the level of risk.

Visitor masking and visitor numbers

Out visitor arrangements will remain unchanged.

Please ensure every ward entrance has a trolley set up with masks for visitors to enter the ward with the signage provided and that this is kept regularly stocked up. If there are issues with visitor non-compliance, please don’t hesitate to call a Code Grey. Security will also be increasing their rounds to high-risk areas.

We are keeping inpatient visitor numbers at two per day and visit duration to two hours; however, exemptions are available for end-of-life care, critically ill patients or patients with high-level clinical or social needs who would benefit from the presence of a visitor. Visitors seeking exemptions for these reasons should speak to the ward Nurse Unit Manager or Clinical Hospital Coordinators.

Visitors’ guidelines can be found on Western Health’s website.

Staff PCR testing

Williamstown Emergency Department continues to provide PCR testing for staff who have COVID-like symptoms but are RAT negative. PCR testing is available from 8am-11am daily.

COVID booster vaccinations now available

There is significant waned immunity with 89% of Victorians aged >12 years having not received vaccine in the last four months1. Due to increased demand of the booster winter dose, additional sessions have been added to the pop-up clinic at Sunshine Hospital in Pod 2 for staff and volunteers only. Vaccine is strictly by appointment and only available via the Sunshine Hospital due to specific vaccine storage requirements not available at other sites.

Appointments can be booked via the Coronavirus microsite front page link using the QR code. Vaccines available are the bivalent Pfizer BA4/5 and from April Moderna BA4/5. Novavax can be given for those unable to have a mRNA vaccine.

  1. Victorian Department of Health, Victorian COVID-19 Data to 24 March